Oct 1 In the US, the Republican Party's ploy against President Obama's healthcare shuts down the federal government, partially. Some federal employees will work without pay. Parks, monuments and museums close. But junk mail is still delivered, and talk continues, with Democrats blaming Republicans and Republicans agreeing that it's all the fault of the other party. A handful of dreamers wish the US had a parliamentary system with governments run by a single party or coalition. As we know, the political system created by America's Founding Fathers was built for division and squabbling in order to weaken government.
Oct 2 A Washington ABC News poll regarding disapproval of handling negotiations over the federal budget has 50% disapproval for President Obama, 56% disapproval for congressional Democrats and 63% disapproval for congressional Republicans. A Gallop poll has Obama climbing one percent in his approval rating during September 28-30, to 45%.
Oct 2 In Australia, young male power-group camaraderie prevails in the form of many biker clubs. BBC News headlines: "Eight members of rival Australian motorbike gangs have been charged in Melbourne over a spate of shootings." BBC News photos show the bikers riding in packs. (I know the pleasure.) The BBC adds: "Not all of Australia's motorcycle groups are violent."
Oct 2 In Greece, the fascist impulse expresses itself in the Golden Dawn political movement. Today a pack of tough-looking Golden Dawn motorcyclists storm through Athens, celebrating the release of three fellow members from police custody. Twenty-three party members were detained following the September 18 murder of Pavlos Fyssas, a left-wing musician and activist. Golden Dawn has risen in popularity with economic hard times in Greece (not unlike the National Socialist (Nazi) Party in Germany in the early 1930s. It claims to have local organizations in 32 Greek cities, as well as in Cyprus. According to Wikipedia, "Members have expressed admiration of the former dictator Ioannis Metaxas, who ruled Greece from 1936 until 1941. They have also made use of Nazi symbolism, and have praised figures of Nazi Germany... According to academic sources, the group is racist and xenophobic, while the party's leader has openly identified it as nationalist and racist."
Oct 3 From Warsaw, Anne Applebaum, conservative by European standards, writes a column for the Washington Post about countries trying to become democracies and of people asking her questions. She writes of political institutions and of Obamacare having become law in the United States, confirmed by the US Supreme Court. One branch of government, she writes, is not now legally or morally empowered to change that law by holding other parts of the government hostage. She describes Republicans as damaging "the credibility of the United States abroad."
Oct 3 Britain's Prime Minister Cameron says: "Today it is still possible to leave school, sign on, find a flat, start claiming housing benefit and opt for a life on benefits. It's time for bold action here." Cameron is also known for wanting to reform the UK's National Health Service but, like Margaret Thatcher, not wanting to abolish it.
Oct 4 In the United States, many are blaming Congress for the partial government shutdown. Some conservatives blame President Obama. If voters are being blamed, it's those who voted for the other political party. No one is about to blame his own mentality, although in our democracy mentality is the basic problem, with each side viewing the other side as shallow and misguided. The nation, pundits say, is polarized – although in reality opinion is slightly to the left of conservatives. (Obama received 51.1% of the vote to Romney's 47.2%.) Some conservatives, meanwhile, are having ideological fun with what is being described as the layoff of non-essential government employees. In Ohio, on October 1st, talkshow host Doc Thompson, on Blaze Radio, was laughing with his fellow conservatives. Employers in private enterprise, he said, don't keep non-essential employees around. Non-essential employees, he suggested, are a manifestation of big-government, and big-government is the enemy. Meanwhile, those being described as non-essential government employees are annoyed at what they see as a shallow and misguided interpretation of that label.
Oct 5 The US has conservatives of different kinds. One of them, David Brooks, yesterday on the PBS NewsHour, described the career people working for the US government – people during the shutdown labeled as non-essential. He mentioned David Cameron in Britain having stopped calling government bureaucrats by that name after he got to know them. Brooks said that he often asks Republicans about the "career people" they work with. "And almost universally" said Brooks, "even if a lot of the Republicans are not very fond of big government ... they say the people in the offices are quite impressive."
Oct 7 President Obama's position is clear, and it is being repeated by Democrats: the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) became law through proper legislation and was tested by the Supreme Court, and the way to reform or get rid of Obamacare is also by traditional legislative means; a law should not be changed by attaching it to a funding bill and threatening to shut the government down if that bill doesn't pass. This, according to Obama, is not the way our democracy works. A principle is at stake here, says Obama. In politics methodology is significant. That's what constitutions are about. Obama wants a vote on government funding that doesn't have the Obama proviso attached. The Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, doesn't accept Obama's argument. He describes Obama as refusing to negotiate and with his Republican collegues he puts blame for the shutdown on Obama.
Oct 8 In Washington DC, a rift intensifies between "take our country back" Tea Party Republicans and moderate Republicans, while public support for Congress diminishes. A WashingtonPost/ABC poll has 70 percent disapproval for the Republicans, up from 63 percent a week ago. Gallop has President Obama rising 2 percent in job approval (to 45 percent) from October 4th to 6th.
Oct 8 General al-Sisi describes Egypt's armed forces as having removed President Morsi from power in order to avoid a "civil war." Yesterday, the military was targeted in several attacks around the country. BBC News wrote that "gunmen shot dead five soldiers who were in a patrol vehicle near the city of Ismailiya" and a " rocket-propelled grenade is reported to have hit a satellite station in a Cairo suburb." Today, hundreds of defiant Morsi supporters gather outside Cairo University and chant "Down with the military government." A 19-year-old find arts student with them said, "We are here standing against the coup." Another student, according to Reuters News, says "Sisi is a hero and there's no one like him." A friend added: "Mursi was a traitor and the Brotherhood are dogs."
Oct 8 Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan calls Syria's President al-Assad a terrorist.
Oct 9 Yesterday, Speaker of the House, John Boehner, gave us his version of political propriety. He said: "...if there's unconditional surrender by Republicans, he [President Obama] will sit down and talk to us. That's not the way our government works." Meanwhile, Boehner is being described as refusing to consider voting for a "clean continuing resolution" to reopen the government and a "clean bill" to raise the debt limit."
Oct 10 The Copenhagen Post reports that in Denmark atheists "now make up nearly 20 percent of the population" and just three percent "regularly attend church services." Of the remaining 77 percent, some are said to create "their own faith package or practice their faith without any framework." Some are perhaps closet atheists. Nothing was said about agnostics.
Oct 10 Michele Bachmann, Tea Party leader in the US Congress from Minnesota, describes a crisis greater than the partial government shutdown and the debt ceiling crisis. She says we are "living in the End Times ... that we have entered the Last Days." She describes indication of this as President Obama having "waived a ban on arming terrorists in order to allow weapons to go to the Syrian opposition." She adds that "US taxpayers, are now paying to give arms to terrorists including al Qaeda."
Oct 10 The New York Post newspaper ran an article two days ago with the headline "US adults are dumber than the average human being." Late night comics have had fun with it. The Post's story is about a serious study called the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. Tested were about 166,000 people, ages 16 to 65, in more than 20 countries. The Americans scored somewhere in the middle. Adults in Japan, Canada, Australia, Finland and Denmark scored better.
Oct 13 This past week, the Obama administration cut aid to Egypt, telling those in power there that the aid would resume when they behaved themselves. The cut frustrated Israeli officials, the aid having been part of a 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Some say the cut will encourage Brotherhood protests. A headline in the pro-government newspaper, Al-Tahrir (named after Tahrir Square where anti-Mubarak demonstrations took place) read: "Let American aid go to hell." Meanwhile Egypt receives billions in aid from Arab allies, and many in the US are writing comments celebrating the cuts, saying sending money to Egypt doesn't make sense. Yesterday in Egypt demonstrations against the army-backed government continued, with one death having occurred.
Oct 13 Two days ago, China's President Xi visited Malaysia and promised to triple his country's trade within four years. A little more than a week ago he spoke to Indonesia's parliament, and he promised Indonesia tens of billions of dollars in investment. At the Asian economic summit in Bali this past week, Xi met with Australia's new prime minister, Tony Abbott, and he promised more trade and more cooperation in technology. President Putin was there. President Obama didn't make it to Bali. He is reported as having been busy with the government shutdown crisis.
Oct 13 In Peru, returning on a twisting mountain road from a religious celebration, 52 die as their bus plunges 650 feet. Such busses are known for being in poor condition, and their drivers are known for being careless but having reassurance from their saints and God.
Oct 14 As people in the US and others worry about the debt-ceiling crisis deadline of October 17, religious minorities and secular writers in Malaysia have the word police to worry about. A court rules that non-Muslims cannot use the word "Allah" to describe God. Muslims have been in the street protesting against this use. BBC News reports that "Christians argue they have used the word, which entered Malay from Arabic, to refer to their God for centuries and that the ruling violates their rights." In 2009, churches and mosques were attacked following a government proclamation that a Catholic newspaper, The Herald, couldn't use "Allah" to describe the Christian God.
Oct 14 According to an article in the New York Times by Gina Kolata, researchers have discovered that cancers wrap themselves in an invisible protective shield, that these shields can be broken with the right drug, and with the immune system is free to attack, "cancers can shrink and stop growing or even disappear in lucky patients with the best responses... It may not matter which type of cancer a person has. What matters is letting the immune system do its job."
Oct 15 As US Senators show good cheer and appear to be inching toward a crisis settlement, Tea Party Republicans, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, are hanging tough. In the Washington Post, conservative columnist Michael Gerson describes the reluctance of Cruz and his supporters to compromise as "romantic posturing," and he describes them as "harboring an apocalyptic diagnosis and utopian solutions." Gerson complains that "The political world is moved by optimistic pragmatists, not by despairing utopians." Meanwhile, "right flank" members of Congress are described as furious over Senate Republicans working with Democrats, producing "a mushy piece of sh*t." One of them, according to the National Review, says "If Speaker Boehner backs this he is in trouble." Boehner's fear of the Tea Party is being described as the reason he won't allow a "clean" bill to be voted on that would fund the government and end the shutdown (now in its 15th day). Those who favor such a vote claim that a minority of Republicans and the House Democrats would allow its passage.
Oct 17 Yesterday, US Senators passed an agreement that ends the partial government shutdown and delays the debt ceiling issue to early 2014. Late last night members of the House of Representatives agreed to the Senate's move. All House Democrats and 87 Republicans voted in favor; zero Democrats and 144 Republicans voted no. Senator Ted Cruz, who supported the attempt to attach funding of the government to Obamacare, complained that "Unfortunately, once again, it appears that the Washington establishment is refusing to listen to the American people." In the House, Speaker Boehner addressed those Republicans who supported the maneuver against Obamacare, saying, "We fought the good fight. We just didn't win." Pew Research today claims that among Tea Party political people, support for Ted Cruz soars but with the public the Tea Party's "image turns more negative."
Oct 22 The human rights organization Amnesty International has reviewed nine drone strikes in North Waziristan, Pakistan. The organization condemns these strikes as unlawful killings. A week ago the UN report claimed that drone attacks killed 400 people in Pakistan.
Oct 22 Denmark's tax minister, Holger Nielson, complains about his fellow countrymen using tax havens, and he describes the practice as immoral. In the Copenhagen Post, Denmark is reported as having "no shortage of tax advisors openly willing to help people squirrel their money away."
Oct 24 Maersk, a huge conglomerate based in Denmark and "the world's largest shipping operator" according to the Copenhagen Post, announces that it will streamline its operations by selling holdings not directly concerned with shipping or oil drilling, and that it is looking for buyers of Dansk Supermarket, which operates the supermarket chains Føtex, Netto, and Bilka and the department store Salling.
Oct 26 Yesterday, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas spoke to influential Iowa Republicans and, in the words of the Huffington Post, said that "the partial government shutdown he help[ed] precipitate this month was a success despite a compromise that reopened the government and ultimately funded the health care law he has made his name fighting." The reason it was a success, said Cruz, was that it got people talking.
Oct 26 The freedom and sexual morality issue that arose when driving first became common in the US, in the early twentieth century, is alive today in Saudi Arabia. In the US it was focused on young people, male and female. In Saudi Arabia the issue of morality and freedom with driving remains focused on women, who are still prohibited from driving cars. Today, however, BBC News reports that a "handful of women defy a ban on female driving in Saudi Arabia in protest, despite stern official warnings that they will face punishment."
Oct 28 In various parts of Saudi Arabia, twelve women are "detained" for driving. Yesterday in Mecca security patrols arrested three women in their 40s. Each was accompanied by a younger brother less than 15 years of age. In Jeddah, a 50-year-old divorced Saudi woman was arrested who had a passport from another country.
Oct 29 The former Saudi journalist, Hamza Kashgari, imprisoned for tweets deemed insulting to the Prophet Muhammad (see February 12, 2012) has been released. According to BBC News, "prosecutors never made public any formal charges against him. On the Prophets birthday, Kashgari had tweeted: "I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don't understand about you. I will not pray for you." Kashgari later apologized, saying "I have made a mistake, and I hope Allah and all those whom I have offended will forgive me."
Copyright © 2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.